Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.
Before the introduction of the Romeo and Juliet Law in Florida, two victims may have existed in a sexual battery of a minor conviction. Florida law stated that a minor (16 years of age and under) cannot consent to having sexual intercourse. Therefore, the older boyfriend or girlfriend of a minor could be charged and convicted of statutory rape and be placed on the Florida sex offender list for a lifetime if s/he engaged in intercourse.
The Romeo and Juliet Law, which was established in 2007 protects the older boyfriend/girlfriend from being placed on the sex offender list if the sex was consensual and s/he is no more than four years older than the minor. The evidence has to be present to prove that relationship was, in fact, a consensual one and that the age difference was not so vast as to create a question of guilt. For example, a 24 year old engaging in a sexual relationship with a 14 year old will most likely not be deemed a consensual sexual relationship. The idea is to protect those that most likely engaged in a generally acceptable relationship with another, such as teenagers in high school where one party was older than the other. This law protects individuals from a life sentence of the Florida sex offender list if the minor’s parent simply reported the relationship because the parents did not agree with the son/daughter interacting with one other in a romantic way, hence the name, “Romeo and Juliet.”
The sexual battery law now states that sexual battery occurs when someone 24 years of age or older engages in sexual intercourse with a minor 16 or 17 year old. However, those who engaged in such activity with the prior age of a minor being 16 years of age falls under the Romeo and Juliet law as long as that individual was no more than 4 years older than the minor. Therefore, if the boyfriend is 17 and the girlfriend is 15, then they will most likely qualify under the Romeo and Juliet law. Again, evidence must be available to show that the relationship was genuine between both parties and that the younger participant was not coerced to engage in the sexual relationship.
If you have been placed on the sex offender list for engaging in a relationship with a minor and you were no more than four years older than the minor, then you may qualify under the Romeo and Juliet Law. Being placed on the list can make it challenging to get certain jobs, apartments, etc. In addition, the fact that you have to register wherever you live can be a horrible experience for someone, who in theory, simply had a relationship with his/her boyfriend or girlfriend without the intent of causing harm to another, especially a minor child. For more information, you should speak with an experienced attorney in your area to fully understand your rights and options under this law.